After-Action Report: Jingle Bell Trot

A week post-ride, and Liberty is looking and feeling fantastic. Something I am being cognizant about with her being older is the critical importance of recovery time. I know in humans, recovery takes longer as we age, and while I don’t know if that rings exactly true in horses, it does make sense that it may. The Estrella terrain is also very rugged, and there’s just no getting around the fact it’s one of those rides that tends to beat horses up a bit with the footing. Given all that, I’m giving her some extra down-time post-ride — all part of that foundation laying and forming solid building blocks of conditioning.

I was very happy with how she looked this weekend — legs are tight (actually looking even better than when I brought her home), body is overall good (some cursory bodywork showed some tightness in the loins and SI, but that’s not surprising given that we’re still building that topline), and attitude is fantastic. She is super playful, especially for a mare, and she kept grabbing my hoof stand and waving it around like it was a traffic cone or something yesterday. (Fortunately it’s a plastic base type of stand, especially when she decided to fling it across the aisle at one point. I think someone will be getting a proper horse toy for Christmas. Or a traffic cone.)

photo by John Kordish

I’m really thrilled with how the ride went overall. My main goals were finish in time with a sound horse. So to finish with a comfortable time buffer, still having to rate back Miss Enthusiastic, with all A’s across the board the entire time of movement, makes me absolutely thrilled.

There were just a couple of minor things I need to address or could have done better on.

  • The biggest was hind end interfering. She never interfered in the past that I could see, so I’m not sure what has changed. I left her slightly long on her trim, with the intention being to prove a little extra hoof material there for protection against the rocks, or if she pitched a boot off. However, it might have ended up being a little too long, since she was interfering on the sides of her boots, as well as up on her fetlocks. It may also have been we’re going at a faster pace than what we’ve done in the past, and it may be part of the building condition process, that she’s going to knock herself a bit as that topline is getting better built up and she carries herself even better.
  • To that end, I’m still going to start running her with hind interference ankle boots for added protection.
  • She’s still not great at being syringed. Better than before, but my elyte mix was salty enough that after one squirt of it, she was no longer doing her “grab for the syringe” trick. So, work in progress.
  • More proactive cooling. She’s one of the larger, bigger-bodied horses I’ve ridden, not to mention a dark color. Her pulse hung at the finish for a couple minutes, and I didn’t do much aside from taking her over to the troughs to drink. I probably could have pulled tack and sponged her, but I’m always reluctant to dump my saddle in the dirt. Hindsight being what it was, since we had to go by the trailer to get to the finish anyway, I could have swung in and dropped the saddle on the saddle rack first. Ah, well, something to remember for the future.
  • Along that same line, I didn’t bother to bring my folding cart, because it was an away check, so I figured I didn’t need the cart to haul stuff around the trailer. Wrong. That would have definitely come in handy for hauling water, and the manure bucket. Something to explore in the future is, provided there is room at the finish in an out-of-the-way area, setting up my own mini self-crewing area with my cart, so I can comfortably pull tack and have a spot to put it.
  • I don’t think she likes orchard grass pellets as much as her previous oat/alfalfa blend. She loves wet beet pulp but wasn’t as crazy about wet pellet mush.
  • Personally…I need to get back on some kind of gym/fitness track. This isn’t a year-end/new year’s resolution…it’s just an actual fact. The pounds started slowly creeping up on me again, and I could stand to lose a few more of them. Riding more helps, but I definitely benefit from doing some kind of work-out activity/routine. Just because I’m riding a larger horse who can carry the weight isn’t a free excuse for me to not try to keep my weight category as light as possible. We’re not going fast enough at this point to worry about standing for BC, either, so extra pounds aren’t any benefit.
photo by Susan Kordish

Gear Rundown:

  • Zilco Endurance Bridle (Add-On Headstall style)
  • Fager Bit, ‘Nils’ model with baby fulmer cheekpieces
  • Wild West Endurance mohair reins
  • Zilco Ultra-Light Endurance Breastcollar
  • Frank Baines ‘Reflex’ monoflap dressage saddle
  • Archer Equine saddle pad
  • Total Saddle Fit Slim Stability Stirrup Leathers
  • Total Saddle Fit synthetic waffle girth with sheepskin cover
  • True Grit Endurance Outfitters pommel bag
  • Renegade Hoof Boots
  • PerformaRide tights
  • LAS helmet
  • Roeckl ‘Miami’ gloves
  • Ariat Terrain boots/half chaps

No complaints in any of the gear department, aside from the aforementioned “need to figure out why she’s interfering” since that took a toll on her hind boots (and her fetlocks). She’s been super-tricky to find a bit for, but I think I’ve found a couple of different models from Fager Bits that she’s very responsive to, and these are definitely my new favorite go-to for bits.

For now, the Frank Baines saddle is working. I really like it as a saddle — gorgeous leather, and the deep seat and big knee rolls make it nice for extra security. But it’s also nice enough I almost feel bad about using it as an endurance saddle sometimes (hence my reluctance to pull tack and dump such a nice saddle in the dirt). Eventually, I may consider looking at different saddle options (at 14 pounds, this one is the lightest saddles I own, but I would kind of like something even lighter, and some of the minimalist options intrigue me), but for now, I’ll stick to what I’ve got unless it becomes a problem.

For here, we’ll be aiming our sights on a 50. I wanted to do the LD for my own confidence, to know that we could do it after our string of early struggles. To have her finish so strongly gives me the confidence that it was a good stepping stone and that we’re on the right path.

Post-Game Analysis: Wickenburg 25

As always, I was mixing up/messing around with gear…girl’s gotta have a hobby, right?

The biggest change was using one of Gina’s spare saddles: a Frank Baines Reflex dressage, fully kitted out with extra rings and such for endurance. I’d been having problems with the Duett leaving Liberty with a sore back (that was a first for me…) and after some examination, concluded that the tree was likely too flat for her, coupled with it being maybe just a touch narrow, thus further tipping it back on her loins.

The FB fit her really well (holy wide tree…FB’s 4W tree, which is the largest they offer in that model!) and it was surprisingly comfortable for me. At an advertised 17″ (although I measured it at 17.5…) it’s maybe just a touch small, especially with the deeper seat and higher cantle, but it was super-secure and I felt really comfortable and balanced in it…so it’ll work for now.


Meet Frank. Frank has only been used once before this and still smells like new leather. ♥

In my quest to find/make the perfect saddle pad, I had obtained a sheet of Supracor material, chopped it up into the appropriate shapes, and stuffed them into one of my existing Skito pads. It worked fabulously — I’m a fan of the support of the Supracor material, which doesn’t collapse and compress under pressure the way most the foams do, and it’s really breathable. Making inserts was 1) Cheaper than getting a new Supracor pad and 2) allowed me to use my favored wool underside of the Skito pad.

I used a rope halter under her s-hackamore headstall instead of the beta halter — it takes up a little less space, especially under the chin, and didn’t seem to interfere quite as much. (Even if I do like the look of the beta halter better…*sigh*)

For whatever reason, I switched back to the curb chain on the hackamore — thinking it might be longer/have a little more space than the solid strap — but that was a mistake. She’s definitely sensitive to too much curb pressure, and tucks her head and gets way behind the vertical when you apply contact. (And I ride with contact, which is why she’s generally pretty bold and not spooky, because she knows I’m up there, and I can feel when she’s getting tense or looky and give her a bit of leg or rein as necessary versus waiting until she’s already spooking halfway across the trail.)

So I rode carefully for the first part of loop 1, then swapped out the bottom solid hobble strap off the hack with the chain and the rest of the loop went way easier, and then once back at camp, replaced it with the solid curb strap.

I’m also going to switch out her hackamore noseband, because despite the “training“, the padded one still ends up flattening out versus draping nicely, and that makes it harder to put the bridle on without it being really tight around her nose. (I also may experiment with some kind of “hook” mechanism on the curb strap, kind of like the curb chain on a kimberwick that can easily be hooked or unhooked.)

25 miles has left me convinced I’m not a fan of the  Gaston Mercier “comfort” leathers. Great concept, questionable execution: wider and more padded leather uppers, with the more narrow and flexible beta straps from which to hang your stirrups as the lower part. Unfortuantely, the d-ring that the beta straps hang from hits me right in the middle of my calf and creates a ton of pressure, even through the thickly-padded leather (and I was wearing half chaps). It’s possible that getting a longer padded section would alleviate this (or it would just move the pressure point to lower down onto my unpadded ankle bone)…but the company was such a pain to try to work with (customer service oriented…not!) and I had to jump through so many hoops to try to get them in the first place that I’m loathe to attempt another pair…especially since I provided height and inseam measurements and relied on their opinion and expertise for the size I need, since my height puts me somewhat between sizes.


I will probably go back to my old standby of Webbers + fleece covers, although the Australian fenders idea has me curious…

For stirrups, I had a pair of Amidale ones that I was trying for the first time. They were actually pretty good…certainly no worse than anything I’ve tried in the past, and possibly even better…only noticed a tiny bit of foot pressure developing, and that was during our endless walking campaign over the last few miles. Definitely worth trying out some more.


Amidale stirrups…of course, the best part is they’re orange!

I had to do some problem-solving with her boots along the way. We started in Classics all around (due to materials/color testing), with Viper heel captivators on her hinds after discovering her lameness from Bumble Bee most likely came from a rock getting under the captivator and creating a cut/crease between her frog and heel bulb. (She has very well shaped and defined heel bulbs, which means there’s actually a tiny pocket of space between her bulbs on the Classic captivator, which has a slightly flatter profile. Not normally an issue…unless you’re riding in some very deep and rocky sandy.)

About 5 miles into the ride, after some significant slogging through sand wash, I noticed her develop a subtle-but-consistent head bob on what looked like the left front. She had gotten quite a bit of sand in her boots, and even some small rocks between her toe and the boot toe. When that happens, it pushes the hoof backwards, and in effect creates a “tight” captivator, the same thing that happens if the cables are not the proper length or the tension strap is fastened too tight. She was responding to the pressure on her heels, and as soon as I pulled the offending boots, she started trotting just fine, no head bob.

She’s a good illustration of “select the proper shape of boot for your horses hooves, especially wen doing high-performance tasks.” Her toe angle naturally sits lower than the Classic shell toe angle, even on a super-fresh trim and appropriately short toes. When that happens, it creates a gap at the top of the boot shell that then allows sand to enter into the boot shell at a rate faster than it can empty out of the back of the boot.

boot comparison copy

You can see the differences. While her feet aren’t necessarily that round (she fits into more oval-proportioned Viper sizes of 140×135 and 140×130), in her case, it’s the angles and captivators that make a difference

I replaced her boots with Vipers at the lunch hold, and we did the second half of the ride, which also had significant amount of sand — everything from fine, powdery dust to pebbly gravel — and when we finished, she didn’t have any sand accumulated in her boots. Lesson learned: She has Viper hooves/heel bulbs, and in high performance hoof booting, attention to detail matters.

We’ve had a bit of an unseasonal heat wave this spring and the ride day was predicted to be a high of 83°, so I took the time Friday afternoon to braid Liberty’s very long, somewhat thick, mane. It served the purpose of helping to keep her cool, and it actually gave me easier handholds than trying to grab her flying mane.


Lots of mane to braid

As for myself, though I prefer to be unencumbered by it, I did wear a hydration pack — the same one I’ve used for running, the UltrAspire Astral. I definitely drink much better from a pack versus bottles, and I drank about 40oz of water on loop 1 and drained the pack (60oz) on loop 2. It also didn’t make my shoulders/neck muscles hurt any worse than not wearing it.

I also wore Kerrits IceFil from head to toe: IceFil Tech Tights (I got a pair when they originally came out and I really didn’t like them…weird waistband that sags, hot material…but I loved the pockets and the low-profile silicone grips. They did a re-design to them, featuring a wider and more elastic waistband, and the material feels different and cooler, so I snagged a pair, and I’m glad I did.) and a long-sleeve IceFil shirt. I’ve had the shirt for a bit now, and while I’ve done some hiking (Grand Canyon backpacking trip!) and running in it, I hadn’t used it at a ride. So glad I did — I feel like it really made a difference in keeping me cool, as well as sun-protected, without having to mess with sunscreen. Must get more…I think I may become Queen of Sunshirts.


UltrAspire Astral pack, IceFil shirt, IceFil tights, Jodz half chaps, Ariat Terrain boots, Tipperary Sportage helmet, Buff headwrap under helmet.

I also did pretty well in the food department: squeezie applesauce, Clif ShotBloks, Bounce energy ball/bar, and string cheese out on trail; ham, string cheese, pudding, and protein smoothie at lunch.

I electrolyted Liberty Friday evening, and then after we finished on Saturday…thinking I probably could have done some at lunch for her? She drank really well out on trail, and her vet scores were all excellent, but she is a larger-bodied, dark-colored horse…my gut tells me she may be one I end up messing around with e’lyte protocols on, especially as temps and distance increases. (But she’s got to get better with the syringe. Right now, she’s even more of a pain than Mimi…which is saying something.)

I think that pretty much covers it…if there’s something I didn’t mention, or you want more info about, just let me know in the comments!

Post-Game Analysis: Bumble Bee 2016

I need to stop thinking and just post this, especially since I have another ride coming up this weekend.

Given that it’s been two years since I’ve been to a ride, I kind of felt a bit like starting from scratch. During that time period, I’ve managed to change out/swap/acquire different gear, most of it untested in an actual ride environment.

The Horse

I had some weirdness this time around with getting her halter-bridle to fit well in conjunction with the s-hackamore. (Which I don’t understand because it’s the same setup as previously and it didn’t get used on anyone else.) I think I’m running into the same situation that I do with Mimi – their heads are fairly short, length-wise, so I run out of real estate to have a halter noseband plus an s-hackamore…and still have the curb on the hackamore make appropriate contact. She also has big ears (sorry, mare), so I’m wondering if the headstall-style halter-bridle may not be the best option, as it’s really tight to get it over her ears…but if it’s easier to put on, the noseband sits too low, and if I’d be better-served going with the bit-hanger style. (Which I historically haven’t liked for trying to bridle with a bit and keep the bit in the mouth while fumbling with bit hanger snaps…an s-hack shouldn’t have that problem.) Further justification for tack hoarder behavior.

S-Hackamore: Given that I don’t work with her on a regular basis yet, I use what she usually goes in, and that’s an s-hackamore. I made one change and swapped out the curb chain for a solid beta curb strap, since the last time, she was acting super-fussy and would drop off contact (hate that) and go behind the vertical when the curb chain would engage. She did much better with the solid strap, although I had to use some authority on her a couple of times when she started getting competitive. Still, I’d rather have that, and have her learn “some contact is good,” since that is how I ride.

In the future, I would like to go back to some basic bitted work with her…she could do better on yielding, and really work her on engaging her hindquarters, working on some contact, and getting her to shift from the shoulders to the hindquarters. (Noticeable when she “drags” herself around on a tight, standstill turn versus doing a nice, from-the-haunches pivot.) She may also be a good candidate for working in a Myler Combination bit, as that offers so many opportunities for contact and release. Plus more groundwork.

Saddle: Unfortunately, I think it’s “three strikes and it’s out.” (Someone send a Money and/or Saddle Fairy my way, please?) Three rides, three different saddle pads, and sore all three times. I initially thought it may be too narrow (and it still might be, thus tipping back on the loins, also causing me to fight against it), but now I also think her back isn’t actually as table-like as I thought it was, and the saddle probably doesn’t have enough rock to it. So saddle shopping will eventually be on the table.  And the Duett is Mimi’s saddle, so it’s not going anywhere. (Ahem, Money Fairy???)

EasyCare Ultimate Stirrups: I am a revolving door of stirrup purchases. This was my latest one. I had high hopes for them, but after doing a ride, I am forced to conclude they are no better than my normal plastic EasyCare ones, and have some aspects of them that I didn’t care for after putting them through a ride, such as a somewhat sharp edge to the aluminum (looking at the dirt/sweat patterns afterwards, I can’t help but wonder if they would end up rubbing the horse’s sides), as well as the top slot is supposed to fit 1” leathers – they are a tight squeeze to get in there, and I worry the sharp edge will start cutting into the stirrup leather.

Gaston Mercier Comfort Stirrup Leathers: Don’t love them, don’t hate them. Want to put more miles on them, as well as play around with how the stirrup leathers loop onto the fender and see if I can make it more streamlined, because as it is, I can feel it as a potential pressure point. Really want to like them, because the leather is lovely and the fact they loop around the stirrup bar with no buckle means that part is super-comfortable.

Skito Dryback pad: Even had new inserts, so I can’t blame that for back soreness. Love my Dryback pad, although I had a hard time getting it centered this time. Which is what happens when you’re using to easily seeing over your pony’s back and now you have an extra five inches to try to see over.

Stillwater mohair contour girth: 24”…and fatty errr… “fluffy” mare could almost use a 26”, since I had to start at the very bottom holes on my billet straps, and gradually up to the second holes.

Boots: I was a material/color test guinea pig for the weekend, and the test boots were done in the Classic model. Liberty is actually a better fit for the Viper model, especially with her toe angle, which is just slightly lower, even with shorter toes. They all stayed on, but we scooped up quite a bit of sand in the washes, and ultimately discovered what we think was the source of her lameness pull: it looked like a small rock had gotten between the captivator and her heel bulbs and created a cut on her coronet band line. When I was poking and prodding her leg, I noticed what looked like a small cut/crease in the area and poked at it, and she flinched a bit…but I figured “surely something so small can’t actually be the cause, right?” Apparently it could. So tough, and so delicate, these creatures. (Which then goes to my own internal debate of “Is it better to have a stoic horse or a wimp? As exasperating as it is sometimes, I’m more inclined to go with ‘wimp’ since they let you know right away if something is bothering them.)

The Rider

The only thing different was my Irideon Synergy tights…and I love them. Must get more. I was initially worried that the multiple seams would cause some rubbing, but so far, so good. Granted,  I would like to take them through a full 25, and a 50, before proclaiming they’re the most awesome end-all, be-all of riding tights…but I’m really liking them so far, and I did some active riding. As well as dealt with part of my sheepskin cover creeping up and bunching up under my leg/seat, and that didn’t cause any rubbing or issues.

However I managed to forget everything I have learned about taking care of myself in my quest to “hurry up and keep moving”. Ate: Nothing along the way. (Fail.) Drank: A few sips of water. (Even more fail.) If I can’t be bothered to fuss with water bottles, I may need to go back to wearing a hydration pack for a while to re-train myself to actually drink. (Running pack is so much better than the old Camelbak…I should try that out riding one of these days.)

“Race brain” doesn’t just happen when you’re “trying to win.” We were not going fast (3 hours to do the 16 mile loop), but I still let myself get sucked into that mentality of “move along , must get down the trail, must not get caught on time” to the detriment of settling in and enjoying the ride.

I had a very enlightening conversation with Bruce Weary at the AERC Convention about learning to relax when you’re in the saddle and how that saddle time is the rider’s time to settle in, let the horse take care of you, make sure you’re hydrating, and not getting to mentally wound up. (Easier said than done.) And then the vet checks are the time for you to take care of your horse…and then once you’re in the saddle and on trail again, rider relaxation time. That’s not something I had every considered — normally I’m the “crash for 30 minutes or however long I have at the vet check” type — probably because Mimi has required a very “on” ride, and I’ve ridden a lot of new/younger horses…so I’ve never learned to relax. (FWIW, a similar thing has been pointed out to me by friends — that I have to learn to relax, go with the flow, and stop being so uptight/controlling/nitpicky when I ride, or I’ll burn myself out on 100 milers.)

Food for thought, and definitely something for me to work on.

Lessons Learned: Bumble Bee edition

Had to cogitate on this one for a few days…didn’t have any major revelations after the initial writing of it, so time to post it.

And now for the ever-popular, “What Worked, What Didn’t, and Other Random Musings.” [Complete ride story here.]

What Didn’t Work

Time-keeping. Obviously. I still don’t know how we got so far behind on getting ready. The only thing I can think of is not being used to starting early on an LD, and it was cold and dark and we were slow.

Self care. More fail. Because of the whole time thing, I managed a cup of coffee and banana for breakfast. And then I ate nothing on the first loop (too busy active riding), and nothing on the second loop. I did semi-okay drinking…probably an entire 20 oz bottle on each loop. The only reason I got away with this was it was 25 miles, and the weather was cool. This is kind of a new challenge for me…I’ve been spoiled by the autopilot pony over the years.

Stirrups. A-freakin’-gain. I hate stirrups. I’ve yet to find ones I truly love. I do like my Cloud Stirrups, but they are so heavy, and on a saddle that’s already on the weighty side, it’s just that much more. So I found a pair of Gaston Mercier stirrups used on a great price, and picked them up…but after riding in them this weekend, I don’t know if there’s enough weight distribution in the footbed, at least not for how heavily I tend to weigh my stirrups when I’m actively riding. Partway through the first loop, my feet were starting to go numb just a bit. I’ll still keep messing with them…I think I also might have had my stirrups a touch short, but that’s my default security setting on a new/young horse.

Saddle. Still not 100% ideal. Liberty was a touch sore on her loins, but not as bad as after Prescott Chaparral. Still…I don’t want to see any soreness, especially after 25 miles, since distance rarely improves that condition. And I’m still so sore where I was getting slammed into the rise on her abrupt stops.

Goatheads. Bleh. Goatheads in the camping area. Still picking them out of my boots. Note to self: Invest in doggie booties and bring them to rides on the off-chance there will be goatheads. (They weren’t there last year.) There were some unhappy dogs this year, mincing their way across the ground. Note to self: Buy dog booties to just keep as part of the ride gear.

What Worked

Tack. Libby and Mimi use the same set-up, sans crupper (for now) on Libby. I just have to let everything out by a hole or two on Libby. (Note to self: Use sharpie to mark the different holes, for ahead-of-time adjusting next time.)

My clothing. The “Lady GaGa” tights are from Evelyn the Tights Lady, and they got more comments than just about any pair I’ve worn. Funky, they coordinated well, and with the full sheepskin saddle cover, not too slippery. I had a polyester tech-material tank top on under a long-sleeved denim shirt, and topped with a lightweight soft shell windbreaker for the first loop. I ditched the jacket at the lunch hold, and kept everything else the same. First ride for my fringed Just Chaps half chaps and they worked excellent. What’s nice about them is they’re short enough that they don’t run into the back of my knee at all, and the suede is super-flexible and soft.

No martingale. Libby did some head slinging at Prescott Chaparral, and I threatened to put a martingale on her the next ride. I decided to start without one, since I’m a minimalist that way, and add it if needed. I never needed it, and her worst behavior indiscretions (happy feet hopping) wouldn’t have been solved with the martingale anyway.

No leg wraps. Yay, she doesn’t interfere. As long as she doesn’t I will continue to not use any kind of splint/ankle boots.

Camera. I remembered to take more photos this time. Why I could do this, and not eat, I’m not quite sure.

Riding buddy. Gina and I always have fun when we ride together. And Libby and Wicked paced well together. Riding with Wicked helped Libby discover that she just might have a decent walk, and she started learning to stretch out her trot when she realized I wouldn’t let her canter.

Boots. Liberty’s Renegade Vipers worked perfectly. At Chaparral, we pitched a hind boot on a water crossing/uphill climb. The only difference was size. This time, we had the next-longer size of Vipers available, and that extra 5mm of length on both fronts and hinds altered the size enough to be exactly what she needed. They didn’t budge this time around.

The horse. I love this mare. She reminds me so much of Mimi. I can’t wait to do more with her.

The ride. Ride management puts on an awesome ride. I’ve been able to peripherally appreciate it, as I’ve been part of the volunteer staff for Bumble Bee and McDowell, but being able to participate in the ride and really benefit from the work management puts into it was fantastic. Well-marked trail, great volunteers, enthusiastic management, and a well-run ride. I’m just sad I didn’t get one of the cute mugs they did for completion awards.

Random Musings

– Battle of Wills: Stubborn Horse vs. Stubborn Rider. This is an interesting one, in that it both did and didn’t work. The “didn’t” part would be I would have just preferred she not pull out the “stubborn mare” card…but what worked was that I had to deal with it. At Chaparral, she pulled that and we sent Uno out in front and she happily followed. This time, she didn’t want to lead, but she started wanting to hop/pitch a fit when following. So she had to lead. She didn’t get to bow out this time. Based on how dominant she is, I fully suspect this was a test to see if I was “worthy” of leading her and whether or not I was sending her to her doom. Overall, I think I did pretty okay…ultimately, she didn’t win on the “dig heels in and refuse to move forward” front. But next time, crop. And she needs more arena time to get sensitized to leg cues. (The good thing: She’s not an over-reactive, emotional horse who goes into hysterics when she’s thumped in the side or swatted on the rear. Subtle riders ‘r us.)

No tire issues. Good start to the year, since the first ride of 2013 was the one that started all of the tire issues…

Lessons Learned: Prescott Edition

Some rides are easier than others. At Sonoita, for whatever reason, everything went really smooth and I found myself wrapped up for the evening by 8PM and with time to even watch TV on Steph’s portable DVD player. Prescott, not so much, as I found myself back to my “standard operating procedure” of feeling like I had way too much stuff to do and not enough time in an evening to get it all done before the next day, then finally crawling into bed around 10PM.

No idea what the difference was, other than maybe more socialization at Prescott? Hey, if it means a slightly later night…so be it. Rides are my social life, so I’m going to enjoy that time.

I touched on it before, but the theme of this weekend was “flexibility.” So many plans ends up changing along the way, and so for a self-admitted control freak who prides herself on her planning and preparation, it was a real exercise in relaxing and going with it, especially since it was mostly stuff I had absolutely no control over anyway. This ride season has been really good in getting me to lighten up and not be quite as intense about rides. I’m still my detail-oriented self (love my lists and Post-It notes), but I’m learning it’s not necessarily the end of the world if some minor thing gets forgotten or doesn’t get done.

As with every ride, some things worked and some things didn’t. Between Sonoita and Prescott, I changed around some major elements of my saddle set-up: the seat cover and the stirrups.

First, I switched my full sheepskin cover out for a Supracor seat cover. What I liked about it: Not having the full sheepskin on the sides of the saddle made it just a little narrower and that much easier for me to put my leg on the horse; the stiffer Supracor material “filled in” some of the extra seat space and made the rise seem less steep; that Supracor is cushy.

Unfortunately, it ended up not working for 50 miles. There was just too much of an edge where the seat cover ended on the sides, and it was definitely turning into somewhat of a chaffing spot. Also, having the sides of my saddle uncovered meant that my knee patches of my tights rubbed against the leather knee blocks of my saddle, and for whatever reason, they squeaked. I hate squeaky noises like that, so that was highly annoying. Plus, my full sheepskin kept my saddle really clean and scratch-free.

Fortunately, I brought all of my “originals” of the things I’d changed out with me, so it was a fairly simple matter of switching out the seat covers between days one and two.

The other thing I changed was my stirrups. I’d been looking at the Cloud Stirrups for a while — my father used to use them, and I could never get over how big and clunky they were — but after exhausting several other options, they looked like my best shot, especially when I found a set of them advertised on the classifieds for a great deal.

I love them. Yes, they’re heavier than I’m used to…but it seems like they balance out the weight of my saddle. And they look less clunky in black. But looks and weight aside, they’re comfortable. I’m still kind of playing with stirrup leather length — because they’re heavier and more stable, they stay in place better and I don’t have to rely on a shorter leg position for stability — but I’m really happy with them.

I must be a real endurance rider now: I got my first actual clothing/tack rub and finally had an actual need for BodyGlide. The intersection between the stitching across the knee patches on one pair of tights + half chaps + stirrup leather was just the wrong combination and I ended up with a rub on the inside bend of my left knee, and could feel another rub starting on the same place on my right knee. Fortunately, this happened on day one when the vet hold was back in camp, so I was able to slather with BodyGlide (lazy endurance rider couldn’t be bothered to remove her half chaps and boots to change tights) and it didn’t really get much worse the rest of the day. As part of my planning, I’d brought three completely different brands of tights with me, so the tights I wore on day two didn’t have stitching in the same location. I also had my full sheepskin cover back on, and riding a completely different horse with different movement and positioning in the saddle.

irish horse had asked about the logistics of riding what was originally going to be three different horses, and how my tack set-up would change. Surprisingly, not that much. I’d tried my saddle on all but Liberty and it worked; including the same saddle pad. Rocco and Kasha both wear the same bit and their bridles are adjusted the same. Liberty wears an s-hackamore, which is the same set-up I use on Mimi, so all I have to do there is adjust size settings. Ditto on the breastcollar — just adjust settings. So far, they all like my mohair girth and it fits all of them. Liberty is the one horse my saddle ultimately won’t work on — it’s a little bit too narrow and she was slightly sore back on her loins by the time we finished. (She’s a tank, at least as wide as Mimi.)

I wish I would have had time to braid Liberty’s mane. I don’t think it made a huge difference in her cooling down, but it’s long and fine, and kept getting caught under the breastcollar/saddle pad/saddle packs/reins. I even spent the last 15 minutes at the vet check rummaging through my crew bag looking for something to use as a hair tie. (The only thing I found that might have worked was shoelaces. I figured we’d gotten that far and were still okay, so just left it. I now have a pack of braiding bands and a mane comb stuck in the crew bag.)

I did pretty good in the food department. Ride meals were outstanding, provided by a mobile catering company. Dinner Saturday night was BBQ ribs or chicken (ribs for me!), and Sunday was beef burgandy on pasta. The chocolate cupcakes with almond butter whipped cream were so good. I made my homemade meat sauce marinara with spaghetti for Friday night — always a hit — and had leftovers of that for Saturday lunch. Breakfast we discussed already, with the conclusion that “cottage cheese is good.” I still love the Succeed! electrolytes and the Clip2 energy drink: I went through three of those over the weekend. All things vanilla or orange-flavored work the best for me. Lemon-flavored GU Chomps tasted good going down, but lemon-flavored burps aren’t all that much fun later.

And the biggest thing for me in finishing a ride still feeling good? Riding good horses who don’t thrash me to bits or give me ulcer-causing worries. Thank Liberty, Rocco, Gina, and Stephanie for a great weekend and two great rides!